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Raphael Sanzio (Italian: Raffaello) (1483 - 1520)  Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione  Oil on canvas, 1514-1515  82 cm × 67 cm (32 in × 26 in)  Louvre, Paris, France
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Title: Baldassare Castiglione
Raphael Sanzio (Italian: Raffaello) (1483 - 1520)
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione
Oil on canvas, 1514-1515
82 cm × 67 cm (32 in × 26 in)
Louvre, Paris, France

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione is an oil painting attributed to the Italian High Renaissance painter Raphael, circa 1514-1515.

Baldassarre Castiglione was a literary figure active at the court of Urbino in the early years of the 16th century.

The portrait may or may not have been in fact painted by Raphael. According to a letter of 1516 from Pietro Bembo to Cardinal Bibbiena, "The Portrait of M. Baldassare Castiglione... [and that of Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro would seem to be by the hand of one of Raphael's pupils". But the high quality and masterful combination of pictorial elements which distinguish the painting (note the affection inherent in the intelligent and calm face of Castiglione) lead one to believe that the master participated in some way in its ution. Certainly the shaded tonalities of the clothing and the unusually light background indicate the hand of a skillful and experienced painter. Moreover, the direct glance of the subject establishes an immediate, intimate contact with the observer.

Until January 2007, the portrait was on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, as part of the Louvre Atlanta exhibition. In January, the painting returned to its permanent home in the Louvre in Paris.
Baldassare Castiglione, count of Novilara (December 6, 1478 – February 2, 1529), was an Italian courtier, diplomat, soldier and a prominent Renaissance author.
He was born into an illustrious Lombard family near Casatico, near Mantua, where his family had constructed an impressive palazzo. The signoria (lordship) of Casatico (today part of the commune of Marcaria) had been assigned to an ancestor, one Baldasare da Castiglione, a friend of Ludovico II Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, in 1445 The later Baldasare was related to Ludovico through his mother, Luigia Gonzaga.

In 1494, at the age of sixteen, Castiglione began his humanist studies in Milan, which would eventually inform his future writings. However, in 1499, after the death of his father, Castiglione left his studies and Milan to succeed his father as the head of their noble family. Soon his duties seem to have included representative offices for the Gonzaga court; for instance, he accompanied his marquis for the Royal entry at Milan of Louis XII. For the Gonzaga he traveled quite often; during one of his missions to Rome, he met Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino, and in 1504 a reluctant Francesco Gonzaga allowed him to leave and take up residence in that court.

Urbino was at that time the most refined and elegant among Italian courts, a meeting point of culture ably directed and managed by duchess Elisabetta Gonzaga and her sister-in-law Maria Emilia Pia. The most constant guests included: Pietro Bembo, Giuliano de' Medici, Cardinal Bibbiena, Ottaviano and Federigo Fregoso, and Cesare Gonzaga, a cousin of both Castiglione and the duke. The hosts and guests organized intellectual competitions which resulted in an interesting, stimulating cultural life producing brilliant literary activity.

In 1506, Castiglione wrote (and played in) a pastoral play, his eclogue Tirsi, in which allusively, through the figures of three shepherds, he depicted the court of Urbino. The work contains echoes of both ancient and contemporary poetry, recalling Poliziano and Sannazzaro as well as Virgil.

Castiglione wrote about his works and of those of other guests in letters to other princes, maintaining an activity very near to diplomacy, though in a literary form, as in his correspondence with Ludovico da Canossa.

Francesco Maria della Rovere succeeded as duke of Urbino at Guidobaldo's death, and Castiglione remained at his court; with Francesco Maria, he took part in Pope Julius II's expedition against Venice, an episode in the Italian Wars: for this he received the title of Conte di Novilara[4], a fief near Pesaro. When Pope Leo X was elected, Castiglione was sent to Rome as an ambassador of the duke of Urbino. In Rome he formed friendships with many artists and writers; among these, Raphael, a native of Urbino, soon became a close friend, frequently asking for his suggestions. Raphael gratefully painted a famous portrait of Castiglione, now at the Louvre.

In 1516, Castiglione was back in Mantua, where he married Ippolita Torelli, descendant of another ancient noble family; two passionate letters he wrote to her, expressing deep sentiment, have survived, but she unfortunately died only four years later. At that time Castiglione was in Rome again as an ambassador, this time for the Duke of Mantua. In 1521 Pope Leo X conceded to him the tonsura (first sacerdotal ceremony), and thereupon began Castiglione's second, ecclesiastical career.

In 1524, Pope Clement VII sent him to Spain as Apostolic nuncio (ambassador of the Holy See) in Madrid, and in this role he followed Charles V to Toledo, Seville and Granada. At the time of the Sack of Rome (1527), the Pope suspected him of a "special friendship" for the Spanish emperor Charles: in effect Castiglione should have informed the Holy See about the intentions of Charles V, for it was his duty to investigate what Spain was planning against the Eternal City. On the other side, Alonso, brother of Juan de Valdés and secretary of the emperor, publicly declared that the Sacco was a divine punishment for the too many sins of the clergy.

Castiglione, in an undoubtedly uncomfortable position, answered both the Pope and Valdés, in two famous letters from Burgos. Valdés received a very long and severe letter in which the nuncio used hard terms to define the Sacco and Valdés' comments. The Pope, on the other hand, received a letter (dated December 10, 1527) in which the sense of Castiglione's daring argument was that several aspects of Vatican politics were ambiguous and contradictory, not at all a valid support in his action of pursuing a fair agreement with the Empire; this lack of coherence in the Church's actions had therefore irritated Charles V.

Against any expectation, he received the excuses of the Pope and great honors by the emperor. Today it seems quite certain that Castiglione had no responsibility in the Sacco, and he had played honestly his role in Spain. Also, a popular story about his death from remorse found no confirmation: he died of the plague.

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Raphael Sanzio (Italian: Raffaello) (1483 - 1520)  Transfiguration  Oil on wood, 1516-1520  405 cm × 278 cm (159 in × 109 in)  Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican City, Rome, ItalyRaphael Sanzio (Italian: Raffaello) (1483 - 1520)  Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione  Oil on canvas, 1514-1515  82 cm × 67 cm (32 in × 26 in)  Louvre, Paris, FranceRaphael Sanzio (Italian: Raffaello) (1483 - 1520)  The School of Athens  Fresco, 1509-1510  500 cm × 770 cm (200 in × 300 in)  Apostolic Palace, Rome, Vatican City
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